IN 1990, GOV. Carroll Campbell and Attorney General Travis Medlock diverted $25,000 from their re-election campaigns to run radio ads opposing a constitutional amendment that would have made it tougher to prosecute public corruption cases.
The amendment, to limit the jurisdiction of the still-new State Grand Jury, was put on the ballot before the federal corruption sting dubbed Lost Trust broke and it became clear that state officials needed that power, but Mr. Campbell and Mr. Medlock werent willing to take the chance that voters would make the connection.
A decade later, Gov. Jim Hodges wasnt on the ballot, but one of his pet issues was: the lottery. So he cranked up his political machine and helped convince voters to change the constitution to set up a state gambling enterprise.
Our state is better for the Campbell-Medlock effort, worse for the Hodges effort, but thats not the point. The point is this: When governors care about the outcome of a constitutional referendum, they dont just hope people will vote the way they want. They put their time, political credibility and campaign money into the effort, just like they would for their own election campaigns.
Yet with less than a month before voters decide whether to let gubernatorial candidates pick their running mates, rather than having the governor-in-waiting self-selected, Gov. Nikki Haley has shown no signs of gearing up a Vote Yes campaign.
And the governor isnt the only supporter on the sidelines. The state Chamber of Commerce isnt campaigning for the change. Nor is the Club for Growth, or the S.C. Policy Council or other big-money groups that pushed for years for the Legislature to put the question on the ballot.
Thats a problem because the reasons for the change arent intuitive; the automatic reaction from people who havent given it much thought is to resent having their right to vote taken away. Spend just a little time explaining the reason for the change since the only reason we have a lieutenant governor is so hes ready to carry on the governors policies if something happens to her, it only makes sense for the governor to pick that person and most sensible folks agree.
We need that explanation to be made to more than just the people who read newspaper editorials.
We dont mean to imply that the burden is Gov. Haleys alone. Even beyond those interest groups that pushed for the change, every legislator who supports it ought to be campaigning for it particularly those who have no or token opposition.
But the governor has the bulliest pulpit in the state, she has a healthy campaign war chest, and she apparently has time to campaign: Shes planning to go after incumbents who havent supported her agenda. Among the targets: Those who refused to abolish the Budget and Control Board and give most of its duties to a new Department of Administration controlled by the governor. Like letting the governor pick her running mate, that would inject a little efficiency into the government and give governors just a little bit of the kind of control over the executive branch that the rest of the nations governors take for granted.
Yes, its an outrage that the Legislature adjourned this year without passing the Department of Administration bill. But lawmakers will return to that issue in January, and theres good reason to believe that this time theyll pass it. The same is not true of the lieutenant governor change. If voters reject that which seems highly unlikely if they understand the reasons for it they wont get another chance.
Gov. Haley doesnt have many reform accomplishments to her credit; the joint ticket would be a huge one. It isnt quite a bird in the hand, but its close. She needs to make sure it doesnt get away from her and us. She has the next two years to work on the ones hiding in the bushes.